Fiona is a woman in her late twenties who lives on the East Coast with her husband Eric and their three-year-old.
So, we’re talking because you recently had a new experience.
My husband and I went to a swingers club for the first time!
How long had you guys been throwing around the idea?
A couple months—we talked about it a lot, but stopped short of making it an actual possibility. Then very recently my husband was just like, “Let’s just do it, we keep talking about it, I found this place in Atlantic City.” And we decided to go for it, and we went on Friday, and it was awesome.
And you’d never done anything like this before.
Not at all. I had experiences of being drunk and sort of fooling around with a friend and a boyfriend, but I’d never had sex with more than one person at a time, never really had sex with strangers. I only had one one-night stand ever and it was awful. So the idea had crossed my mind in fantasy, but not as something I actually wanted to do.
How long have you and your husband been together?
Married for almost four years and together for just about five.
So what was that transition moment like, from fantasy to all of a sudden you’re staring at each other like, “Okay yeah we’re gonna do this.”
Well, I should say here that my husband and I both have pretty serious trust issues, which is a big reason why this seemed like a potentially bad move. We’ve both had issues with being cheated on, and that stuff sticks to you forever. And he’s quite a bit older than me and has a lot of experience that I never had, and for a long time I was pretty protective of my fantasies: even if I expressed them in the moment and it was hot, afterwards he’d feel weird about it, so I kind of shut stuff off.
So oddly this wasn’t even on the table as a fantasy until I embarked on a bit of an emotional affair with an ex of mine. Afterwards we were working through it and trying to be really honest with each other about sex, and it opened up a new door in terms of what we were willing to talk to each other about.
Like me saying, “I actually might be attracted to women.” Aside from making out with friends I hadn’t had any experience with that, so the realization came slowly. And I told my husband and the next day he called me at work and was like, “I want you to know that, if this is something you want to explore, you should be able to do that.”
My first thought was, Oh, that’s cool, and my second was like, Very sweet of you but that’s insane that you think a woman being bisexual is this very specific, like...
Yep. Never met a guy who wasn’t like, “Sure, bang your friend, that sounds great.”
Like, you’re not asking me to explore all the men I haven’t fucked. I don’t think they realize there could be an actual emotional threat.
So he says this to you and where did your mind go?
Well, I shut it down. I didn’t want to go outside my relationship, but my husband wasn’t really getting that picture—in accepting these things he was learning about me, he had a hard time understanding that he was included. But my whole fantasy life includes him. Or at least, once I opened up to him, it made it much easier for him to be part of every narrative. Some of the more self-destructive things embodied in certain fantasies changed once I told him.
Anyway, I’m in therapy, and we’ve gone to couples counseling, and eventually he did understand that he was part of this. We were able to be on the same page, and articulate sexual fantasies that surrounded each other.
For you, how much does wanting to have sex with other people have to do with wanting emotional things from other people?
I don’t see my sexual desires as in any way separate to my emotional desires. I also feel like I have sex and self-destruction pretty well tied together—my sexual history is typically complicated, full of wrong people and wrong reasons, and I’ve got this desire that my husband doesn’t have at all, to keep tabs on people, to know that I’ve had some impact on their life. Which is messed up.
And totally natural. So you guys get on the same page, and?
We talked about swingers clubs, but we thought it’d be too much too soon. Our sex life was getting incredible anyway—we were going to a lot of sex stores, trying new things. But then after awhile my husband was staying stuck on the swingers club as definitely something he wanted to try, and after awhile it had just come up so much that we needed to try it.
And it was obviously not like we had to go all in. There was so much talk about open communication and saying what we’re okay with and we’re not. Either of us could stop it and leave any time. We talked about ground rules—no getting anyone’s phone number, no doing anything without asking the other person. We both had the idea that maybe this would not really go far, and either way we’d end up sleeping with each other at the end of the night, and that’s what mattered.
All right, so night of. What happened? What’d you wear?
We have a three-year-old; she was already set up to sleep at my friend’s house for the night—my friend takes her once a month, which is the best thing ever for a friend to do—and the anticipation was great. We went to this thrift store that doesn’t have a dressing room, and I found three little black dresses, and my husband picked the one he liked the most, a little tank dress that flares out at the waist like a ballerina dress or something, way shorter than anything I’d wear in real life, with a scoop back. Luckily it fit when I tried it on at home. Black heels and a chunky necklace and that was my deal. My husband wore, like, whatever. Jeans. They have it easy.
But also boring.
True. So the club opens at 10—my husband wanted to go later, which is, you know, the normal thing; I was nervous and wanted to scope it out. So we went early. And the club is BYO, I think that’s sort of standard—and we waited till Atlantic City to go to a liquor store, and my husband doesn’t drink anyway, and by the time we got to a liquor store we could only get wine or beer, so I got some shitty-ass bottle of white something, so I was already like, “This is terrible,” and we pulled up and we see this couple outside in their fifties and the guy has a full-on ‘70s mustache, and I was like, “Well, this is exactly what I imagined.”
You were already expecting you’d be on the younger end.
Yeah, I think the general age is usually thirties to forties.
Do you have like a mental cap of what age of dude you’d be comfortable having sex with?
Not at all, I didn’t think it would really get to that point. I figured maybe I would have sex with my husband in this weird public place and that would be hot and maybe there would be a lady and that would be great too.
Okay, so what was the club like?
We were immediately greeted by a receptionist, a much older woman who looked very much like she did not want to be there. You have to sign a release form, it costs like $75 for a couple.
What are the rules about that kind of thing?
Single women get in free, single men have to pay $100, and they only allow 10 single men on a Friday night. No single men on Saturdays.
Yeah, they’re strict, everything is written out—at any point if someone says stop you really, really have to stop, and if you do anything untoward you’re getting banned. They are very aware of the potential problems. And there are essentially club bouncers walking around the whole night.
God, what a job that would be.
So we walk in, there’s a big TV behind the bar playing porn, a dance floor and a DJ who is only playing songs that are very literally about sex, just totally hammering it in.
“HAMMERING IT IN" LOL
There were maybe two other couples when we walked in and I was trying really hard not to make eye contact, but then I felt guilty, because I was like, I should check people out—and then our bartenders (male, which I wasn’t expecting; I was expecting boobs) made me feel really comfortable. One of them showed us around all the rooms upstairs, all these rooms with beds and swings and stripper poles and those things you can bind people’s arms and legs to, and a locker room, and this room with a big bed and a contraption you can attach a dildo to, and this room with like bench observation seating, a room with a mirrored wall. In every room there’s a corner with a cart with towels and sheet sets and a bin to throw the used stuff in, and condoms.
So the idea is you meet someone at the club and move upstairs.
Yeah, I think there’s no nudity on the first floor. It’s more like a regular club down there.
Did it feel like that?
Well, it was pretty empty when I showed up, and the porn and the bad DJ made it more sort of like a bad idea of a regular club. And as the couples started filing in, all the men looked either old and creepy or serious New Jersey meatheads, not my type: the women were much more diverse in their appearances but even then it took me a long time to see anyone that I was remotely interested in.
My husband, on the other hand, was totally into it as soon as the bartender showed us around.
So how’d you ease into things?
We sat on the side of the dance floor, I had a glass of wine, we hung out for awhile. A lot of people knew each other already, it seemed. I was pointedly not making eye contact with anyone, and then finally this one woman—the one I’d thought was most attractive—started dancing for her husband, and finally a Prince song came on, and she and I and this other women got up and danced like it was high school, and then more people came in, and my husband just suggested we go upstairs and fool around.
We scoped the scene out—you know, lots of people having sex, lots of people watching—and we started making out in one of the side rooms. Then my husband was like, “Let’s go out where the people are,” and we sat down in the main room and started fooling around and I started giving him head in front of a bunch of people, and then I got on top of him—I actually kept my clothes on then, and all night too—and anyway, this woman I’d danced with downstairs came in. She was really cute, this light-skinned African-American woman with a bit of an accent, and her husband was this giant black man, like a friendly bear of a human. They came in and she was like, “Would you like to suck my husband’s dick?”
I liked that she approached me, rather than her husband. And I looked at Eric and he was like, yeah, go for it, and she went and got him. And we just started doing things—I actually ended up going down on her, which was the first time that had ever happened for me. And then she asked if she could do stuff with my husband—I think they tried to have sex but he hadn’t used a condom in so long that he couldn’t make it happen. And then another guy came in—he was wearing a hat, which I did not appreciate—and asked if I would suck his dick, so I was going back and forth between these two guys for awhile.
I am loving this story. Very rapid acceleration just now.
In the moment it was just like, “I’m doing this with my husband,” and the ideas I’d had about which people I’d want to do things with sort of went out the window. All I cared about was how they approached me. So then we sort of finished, went downstairs, got another drink.
Did it feel as chill as it's sounding?
Yeah, nothing felt weird about it. The ladies were joking around, every one was so positive, complimenting each other, you’re running into people in the bathroom.
True sex-positivity seems like the absolute only way for this to go.
Totally, but I have had really little actual experience with people who are like that. I grew up in a really Christian home, my husband grew up Catholic and with all the guilt in the world. I feel like I’m just now learning to talk to some of my friends about sex, even if I’m personally progressive.
Okay, so you go back downstairs, I imagine you’re just like on fire.
I was giddy. It was crazy. My husband went outside to smoke, and I talked to a few people, and then my husband and I went back upstairs and this is when it gets even crazier.
DOES IT NOW
So we went into the weird torture room, and it was just the two of us and we started having sex in there. My husband was behind me and this guy showed up and stood in the doorway watching, and I didn’t want to look at him but my husband was into it, and then a couple more people started watching and we were like, “Okay, I guess we’re performing.”
Then my husband was like, “Does anyone want to get his dick sucked? Wanna do that, babe?” And so the random guy who had been in the doorway just whipped it out. He was actually really wonderful and very gentle and polite. And also he had a pretty big dick.
Excellent, good for him.
And then another guy came in, and so I was doing that too—and like, I think my husband finished, and asked one of them if he wanted to have sex with me from behind. So I think I wound up giving head to three guys, and two of them had sex with me for like a minute each. Finally I was like, “I’ve been giving head for an hour and I’m going to tap out now.”
And that was definitely the most insane series of events of the night.
Your ethos here is inspirational. Just like, all in. So you didn’t have to verbalize these finer points of consent you’d talked to your husband about?
In the first room it was like that. “Do you want to do this, is this okay, can they do this,” etc. But in that last room we were just like, we are just doing this. After he finished, I took a second and was like, “Are you done?” And he said, “Are you? It’s up to you, it’s totally fine with me if you want to keep going.” So I did keep going for a bit, and then I was done too.
And then I hadn’t gotten off at that point because I have to do it myself.
HAHAH oh my god. I can’t imagine how horny you must have been at that point.
Yeah, so we went off into a room, and then I got myself off there, and we had sex again, and another couple was doing stuff next to us—and then a girl joined in, and she was going down on the other girl and her boyfriend was having sex with her for behind, and we were like, “And this is how our night is ending.”
And so you were never uncomfortable?
There were two different guys who approached me asking me to fool around with their wives—I wasn’t into it, I didn’t like being approached by the husband, and I don’t think my husband was feeling it with them either. But those things were totally fine and comfortable. More like, “Maybe later, we’re doing stuff by ourselves right now.”
What did you talk about on the drive home?
We’re driving home at like 2:15, and my husband is having that feeling where you finish watching porn and you realize you’re sort of disgusted and you feel a little bad about it. He finally was like, “Are you okay with the fact that I offered you to give head, without asking you beforehand?” And I was like, “No, that was super hot."
I wanted him to call the shots—I was into that. It’s part of our fantasy.
He thought that you didn’t really want to do it?
Well, to be fair, I generally have a hard time saying no. We’d talked about how if I didn’t answer a question he asked me it would mean no. But he did really read me correctly, even if he was worried he hadn’t.
After that, for the next couple of days, we went at it like teenagers. Just days of having flashbacks every half hour, of like “Holy shit, we did that.” It was wild and awesome. We’re both still dealing with these residual feelings of guilt, like Is this normal, should we have been that comfortable with it, but also who cares, it was great. Eric was like, “It was really awesome to see you as your own sexual person that is independent of me.” And I loved that. We pretend that our sex lives before didn’t exist, or you block that out about our partner, but seeing your significant other in this way was really awesome.
Are you going to go back?
Definitely. There’s one actually right in our neighborhood.
It still doesn’t feel like a demographic I “belong” to—in whatever subculture I’d be placed into, this doesn’t really seem to exist. Or maybe this is just across all subcultures. The club was racially mixed, a diverse range of ages and looks. But the dominant theme does seem to be older married couples.
And I’m also still thinking about aspects of this. I know it’s a little reckless, that you can’t be completely protected sexually. But you do crazy reckless shit when you’re single, and the idea that once you’re married all this stuff just goes away and you’re a wholly responsible person...
I think we were responsible in all the important ways within the context of our relationship, anyway.
Any helpful tips you want to leave people with? Tips for first-time swingers?
Communication is the most important thing before, during and after. You cannot try and have your partner be a mind reader. Also, if you drink, you should, but do not get drunk. I was worried about that, in terms of consent and inebriation, but no one at the club seemed out of it. Just do whatever you can to mentally prepare yourself for all of the possibilities. Any ground rules that you need to set, set. Just know that you yourself can change those ground rules in the moment, too, if you find that you need to—and make sure you’re clear with your partner about that, and vice versa.
Those sound like good rules for life generally.
I guess they are!
If you have recently had a first-time or otherwise notable group sex experience and would like to talk about it anonymously (or not!), or if you know someone who might be interested, please get at me on Twitter or at email@example.com.